So the Church is a Mess? Not Sure What to Do?

At dinner with friends the other night the conversation turned to the traditionalists with a fair bit of sympathy. Along with the obnoxious voices of the radical traditionalists there are many good Catholics who simply feel let down by their church leadership.

They may be willing to put up with a liturgy they don’t like and music that they find shallow and they may be willing to endure sentimental or politically correct homilies, but they see a deeper malaise in the church and don’t know what to do about it.It’s like they are looking at a beautiful garden over run with weeds and they don’t know where to start or what to do to restore the garden.

A heartfelt comment in yesterday’s combox expresses the anger and loss many traditionalist Catholics feel at the corruption and liberalism in the church:

 I find myself grateful for your comments about being too critical and how it can cause more division in the Church. I also come back to a question, how do we confront the corruption, and there is much of it along side many good people, that are tearing apart the community of the Church? Do we simply say, well God will take care of it at the end of time? Some times this is the only possibility. Yet, as I watched Michael Voris’ Mic’d up regarding the systematic squashing of his ministry from those unnamed people that run dioceses, all I can say is I have seen it first hand. I have seen one really fine energetic Catholic after another, priests and laity, that have been silenced into oblivion for simply teaching the faith with clarity. I will tell you I have never seen someone who teaches absolute falsehood regarding the faith so treated. How is that? What do we call this except a corrupt system? I wont even mention what it took to uncover the sexual abuse that had been covered up for so many years and the seemingly intentional blaming it on pedophiles rather than homosexual relations with post pubescent children and priests (this is not pedophilia, yet we keep calling it that). Why? Do we just remain silent, or only talk behind closed doors to keep things from going public and we keep a good face? How does one go about this and have some good affect? I to have watched good Catholic people become so angry at the corruption that they no longer have much peace of heart and seem to be holier than thou, as you said. This is no good either. So maybe you can give us more insight into these questions and inconsistencies.

Let’s consider the options: you start protesting. You speak out against corruption, liberalism and indifference. What happens? You will be marginalized as divisive, angry and self righteous. Remember, the people you are fighting are just as convinced of the rightness of their way of doing things as you are of yours. They not only like the banal hymns, the shallow homilies and the feel good liturgies, but they believe them to be the best way forward for the church. Is there scandal and corruption? Those who are trying to fix the problem will not thank you for angry protests.

Furthermore, should you engage in angry protest you will be rejected and excluded from the conversation. This will make you more angry and bitter and before long you will develop a martyr’s complex, and if you’re not careful you will spend all your time licking your wounds and berating your enemies and you may well drift further and further into schism and even heresy yourself.

Let us compare Martin Luther and St Francis. Both were passionate Christians during a time of corruption, indifference and worldliness in the church. Luther began to protest. Many of his complaints were justified. He wanted a pure church–one untainted by what he perceived as heresy and scandal. The protest ended up as Protestantism and the result of that was war, rebellion, sectarianism and five hundred years of strife.

St Francis, on the other hand, heard the words of Christ “re-build my church” and he began to do so with his bare hands. When his order was under attack from the authorities as being sectarian and heretical he went and stood barefoot in the snow until he was able to have an audience with Pope Innocent. In other words, St Francis became a saint. That’s how he confronted the scandal and corruption in the church–by showing the world what it truly looks like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

So how does one confront the corruption, heresy, indifference and scandal in the church? Be a radical disciple. With a joyful heart begin re-building the church right where you are. Serve the Lord with gladness with the gifts he has given you. Do you dislike the music in church? Join the choir. Form a chant group to sing at one of the masses. Offer to pay the salary for a new organist and choir director. Get involved in the parish council. Sponsor a parish mission with a dynamic speaker. Get to know and love your pastor. Overwhelm him with joyful and loyal service. Find out what he needs and deliver it. Soon you will be his confidante and friend.

Do the same at the diocesan level. Get to know the people involved. They are not the enemy. They are your brothers and sisters even if you disagree. If they have a pet cause or mission get involved and help to make it work. When the church is riddled with scandal and corruption fight it by identifying others who are trying to weather the storm and bring good out of the mess. Support them with your prayers, your giving and your friendship.

Do the same at the national and international level. Find the religious orders, apostolates and ministries that are doing good and support them. Every year I go to the Catholic Leadership Conference and meet over a hundred committed, on fire laypeople who are running a whole range of wonderful apostolates that help the poor, spread Catholic devotions, foster strong spirituality, engage in the political debate and seek to evangelize and share the faith. Get to know these groups. Support them with your friendship, your enthusiasm, your zeal and your dollars. Join in with the people who are changing the church in a positive way. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and get to work.

The more you get involved in the groups that are doing wonderful work in the church the more you will be filled with joy in being a Catholic. The corruption, scandal and heresy will fade away like shadows. You will see clearly what you should be doing and it will be positive, life filled and life giving. You will soon see all the good that is going on and the bad you see will fade in importance.

Finally, remember this, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Why did you think that the church would be free from corruption, scandal, indifference and heresy? It has always been like this and it always will be. Read church history. The complainers and protesters never accomplished very much. The saints did. The saints confronted corruption with radiant lives of simplicity and power. They skewered scandal with radiant lives of purity and goodness. They overwhelmed indifference with radiant lives of zeal and joy. At times they spoke out against the scandal, indifference and corruption, but they always did so based on the authority of their own powerful sanctity.

In other words, overwhelm the world with the light, life and beauty of Christ alive in you.

Don’t curse the dark.

Set alight a life ablaze with glory and goodness.

Joanne McPortland compares this effort to the righting of the Costa Concordia – go here

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